SAN DIEGO - There's no question which team should have homefield advantage for the Poinsettia Bowl - Navy, by a nautical mile over Colorado State.
The Midshipmen had the run of the harbor on Wednesday, which only seemed natural, including a pep rally aboard the amphibious assault ship USS Peleliu.
On Thursday night at Qualcomm Stadium, they'll have a cheering section of some 20,000 for the inaugural game.
Those are the perks of playing in San Diego, the West Coast's largest Navy port.
"It's great to have your fans there and hopefully we can feed off their emotion, but once it's kicked off and you get hit in the mouth, you forget how many people are watching," coach Paul Johnson said Wednesday during a news conference aboard the USS Midway, a storied aircraft carrier that's now a museum.
"I think it's really more a tribute to what the Naval Academy's all about. We're fortunate here in San Diego that we have some military bases and a lot of people are stationed in the area, and hopefully they're proud of what's going on at the academy. We'll have a good level of support, I'm sure. Will it make any difference in the game? I hope so, but I don't know."
Navy (7-4) is playing in its third straight bowl game, a first for the academy.
Colorado State coach Sonny Lubick isn't sure how the Rams (6-5) will respond.
"Sometimes we play better under those circumstances, on the road with a hostile crowd," Lubick said. "I don't know if that will work this time."
The real worry for the Rams will be the Navy's option offense. The Midshipmen are ranked No. 1 in the nation in rushing offense at 305.2 yards per game. Navy gained a school-record 5.6 yards per carry this season.
Quarterback Lamar Owens leads the three-pronged attack with 830 yards and 11 touchdowns on 195 carries, and fullback Adam Ballard has 539 yards and six TDs on 94 carries. Ballard took over for injured fullback Matt Hall three weeks before Navy's 42-23 win over Army on Dec. 3.
"They're going to present a lot of challenges to us," said Lubick, whose defense allowed an average of 200.6 rushing yards per game. "I hope we can get the ball back once in a while during the course of the game. Nobody runs it was well or better than the Naval Academy. They do a great job with it."
Navy ran wild against Army, with Ballard gaining 192 of the Midshipmen's 490 yards rushing, with two touchdowns. Owens added 99 yards rushing and three TDs.
Likewise, the Rams could be a challenge to Navy. Johnson thinks his undersized defensive line could have a hard time with Colorado State running back Kyle Bell, who ran for 1,166 yards and nine touchdowns this year. Rams quarterback Justin Holland completed 62.2 percent of his passes in throwing for 2,804 yards and 20 TDs.
Navy opened the season with three-point losses to Maryland and Stanford before winning seven of its last nine.
Navy has just 18 seniors, and Johnson credited them with not letting the season slip away.
"They decided on their watch, they weren't going to let the program slide back," he said.
The Poinsettia Bowl is sponsored by the San Diego County Credit Union.